5th October, 3:41 AM
An obnoxious, incessant beeping noise cut into the dreamless sleep Ianto Jones was experiencing. Somebody’s hands, warm and careful, moved themselves around him. The beeping immediately lessened as an arm moved out from underneath his head, the noise obviously coming from the hand. Ianto was torn between reaching out to grab the hand and pull it back so that he could nuzzle against it some more or allowing it to move away, causing the noise to stop grating on his ears.
The decision was made for him when the warm body he was happy lying against began to move. A series of different beeps later, legs began to detangle beneath the sheet on top of them. The noise stopped, and Ianto took that as his cue to latch closer onto the figure, who was now trying to wriggle his way out of the bed they shared. Ianto tightened his arms around a waist, pressed his nose into the crook of a warm neck and let his own eyes droop closed again.
A warm, quiet chuckle came from his new pillow, soft and close enough that the vibrations passed into Ianto’s own body. Ianto hummed in content sleepiness, half-asleep still.
“Ianto…” a deep, sleepy voice mumbled - Jack’s voice, his barely functioning brain realised.
“What?” Ianto grumbled, and tightened his grip around the leg that was trying to sneak away from him.
“Ianto,” Jack repeated, his voice so soft and fond that Ianto couldn’t understand why Jack was trying to leave the bed. “You need to let go of me.”
“Don’t want to let go of you,” he muttered petulantly. Jack chuckled again, and Ianto wondered if Jack could feel his grin against the top of his chest.
A pair of lips suddenly pressed against Ianto’s forehead, kissing him so gently that he didn’t realise Jack had pushed him off his shoulder until it was too late.
“Come back,” Ianto whined as Jack shuffled his legs out of the bed. Just as Jack sat up, Ianto reached out a hand and latched onto the back of his neck, pulling him back down with a surprising amount of strength. Ianto lifted his head up, opening his eyes properly this time to look directly into Jack’s bemused pair.
Jack’s hair was messy, strewn up in many different directions. Even in the low-light, Ianto could appreciate Jack’s beauty - naked, except for the sheet that still covered his lower half, face far too pretty and far too close to Ianto’s own for him to not be distracted by. With a hand still on the nape of Jack’s neck, Ianto leant upwards and pressed their lips together.
They kissed until Ianto felt content enough that he could have fallen asleep again, if it weren’t for Jack pulling away and out of the bed. Ianto mourned the loss, bunching still-warm sheets up in his arms to hold as a poor substitute. He watched through half-lidded eyes as Jack bent over to grab at some trousers, lazily smiling in response to Jack’s wink.
“Where’re you going?” Ianto asked sleepily, dropping his arm down the side of the bed as he sprawled out on it.
“Rift alert,” Jack explained, toeing on some shoes as he threw a shirt on, leaving the buttons undone for now. Ianto was oddly smug to notice that it was his own pink shirt and was wondering if Jack would let him undress him once more before leaving when the words Jack had said finally sunk in.
“Rift alert?” Ianto questioned, eyes opening properly as he made to sit up.
Jack shushed him, pushing him gently back against the pillow. “Nothing to worry about. It came through in the Hub and is non-living. Probably just Rift junk.”
Ianto frowned but was enjoying the way Jack’s fingers were running through his hair too much to put up a strong protest. “What if it’s not, though?” he murmured.
“Then I’ll move it to a containment box and come straight back down to find the gorgeous Welshman who’ll be keeping my bed warm,” Jack joked, laughing as Ianto grumbled in response. Reaching the hand that wasn’t tangled in Ianto’s hair downwards, Jack tickled fingertips across Ianto’s bare chest, smirking as he playfully twisted a nipple.
Ianto jerked a hand to try to swat Jack’s fingers away but found they had already been pulled back. He glared at Jack, who only grinned brightly in response and leant forwards to give him one last kiss on his forehead. Ianto melted back into the bed, watching Jack climb the rungs of the ladder that led out of his bunker.
Minutes passed, spent lightly dozing in between reality and dream, soft echoes of noises and stray thoughts flying through Ianto’s head too quickly for him to understand. One moment he was lost in a tangling cotton sheet, the next he was lost in a sea of cool-blue eyes and wide, brilliant grins. Ianto’s mouth curved upwards ever so slightly, the sound of laughter getting louder and louder and louder until…
He opened his eyes with a start. There was laughter, loud and booming, coming not from his dream, but from somewhere above him. With a groan, Ianto finally rolled over, deciding that after waking up twice he should probably give in and call it quits. Plus, his interest was now far too piqued by whatever it was Jack was chortling out laughter about to go back to bed.
Begrudgingly wearing Jack’s larger blue shirt, Ianto emerged from the bunker and out into Jack’s office. It took a moment for him to get used to the bright overhead lights, his eyes still squinting and blurring with tiredness. He walked forwards, heading for the main Hub area.
Standing right in front of Gwen’s desk, Jack had his arms folded across his chest, and his head thrown backwards in laughter. Ianto followed the sight of his exposed neck, down his body until he caught sight of the item in front of Jack. From this far away, Ianto couldn’t quite make out what Jack was focused on, so he took a few quiet steps further into the room.
Hearing him walk in, Jack swivelled round and turned his megawatt grin on Ianto. “Look,” he said proudly, reaching over to pick the large item up. He held it forwards, resting his chin on top of it as his arms grabbed at two of the other sides.
Ianto felt his eyebrows raising before he even had time to appreciate the finer details of the portrait Jack was holding up.
The painting was an old Victorian portrait, showing a man sitting in an almost throne-like chair, posture perfect and facial expression stoic. Deep colours swirled from brilliant brush strokes, perfectly capturing the image it was displaying. It took Ianto a second to realise that the figure in the maroon, nearly purple suit (and matching bow-tie) was in fact the same man that was currently holding the painting in the Hub.
“ That’s what came through the Rift?” Ianto asked incredulously, trying to ignore the smile that was tugging at the corner of his mouth. (Jack certainly didn’t need the ego boost.)
“What do you think? Does it capture my beauty? Look as handsome as the real thing?” Jack teased, trying to pull a serious face that matched the pose in the painting.
“Hmm, I’m not sure,” Ianto mused, tapping his chin in thought. “It’s definitely done a good job of making you actually look handsome. Better jawline, neater hair, prettier eyes-”
“Hey!” Jack exclaimed, pouting. He looked at Ianto’s face, as if searching for a glimmer of humour that would let him know that Ianto was only joking. Ianto kept his face as calm as possible, finding immense enjoyment in the way Jack’s eyes flickered towards the front of the portrait to assess whether the claims were true. “Do you really mean-?”
“No, Jack. I just enjoy how easy it is to wind you up.” Ianto smirked.
Jack growled lightly. “Keep winding me up, and you’ll have to find a way to wind me down in a minute,” he said, with a leer.
“Is that a promise?” Ianto grinned, taking the way Jack’s tongue wet his lip in anticipation as his answer. “No, but really. This came through the Rift?”
Jack resigned his face to a slightly more serious expression. “Yeah. Bit weird, but we’ve certainly had weirder.”
“I don’t know. This might be the weirdest I’ve ever seen. Do you remember posing for this portrait?”
Jack hummed in thought. “Not this one in particular. But I have had a few done, in the past.”
“Why does that not surprise me?”
“There’s something quite homoerotic in being the muse of an eccentric, young artist,” Jack said, his eyes going off to the left in the way Ianto had come to know as the sign that Jack was remembering a particularly fond - or at least filthy - memory. “Though I’ve never been painted nude, would you believe it? We ought to try it some time.”
Ianto snorted and tried not to think about how dreadful his own painting skills were. “Is the painting dangerous?”
“My vortex manipulator isn’t bringing anything up. Probably just fallen through time.”
“Then what do you plan on doing with it?”
Jack grinned and held the painting up. “Oh, I can think of a few ideas.”
5th October, 9:08 AM
A loud, clanging noise of metal hitting the floor reverberated across the Hub, drawing the attention of all four other occupants to the medical bay where the noise had sounded from.
“Bloody, fuck !” Owen’s voice rang out before heavy footfalls were heard coming up the stairs. Toshiko turned away from her program, which was taking its time in compiling this morning. Perhaps a distraction could help get her through the start of the workday.
“Is anybody going to tell me why, when I get down to my medical bay, I’ve been gifted a large painting of our dear Captain?” the medic demanded, stomping into a frozen statue of annoyance at the top of the stairs.
The room fell silent until Tosh became aware of a quiet sniggering coming from the walkway above them. She turned to see Jack himself, his grin wide and unapologetic from where he stood, hands folded across his chest.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Owen,” Jack very obviously lied, walking down the stairs until he had also joined them on the same level.
“Yes, you bloody well do! Where the fuck did you get it from?” Owen retorted, his eyes narrowing.
Just then, Tosh saw Ianto enter the floor, complete with a metal tray with five coffees on top of it. “Coffee?” he asked them all. Tosh watched as his eyes moved between Owen and Jack, and something seemed to click in his mind. “Ah. This is about the painting, isn’t it?”
“How do you know about the painting?” Owen demanded, now turning his suspicions onto Ianto.
“I was there when it arrived.”
“Arrived?” Tosh asked, joining the conversation.
Jack turned to look at her. “Last night, in the Hub. Around three-thirty in the morning?” he offered, turning to Ianto for confirmation.
“Nearly quarter to four.” Ianto nodded in agreement, and Tosh tried not to think about what her two colleagues were doing together at that time. She blinked a blush away.
“I don’t know what I thought you two did in the Hub, but Ianto painting Jack certainly wasn’t it,” Owen decided, raising an eyebrow.
“Wait, Ianto paints?” a Welsh voice asked as Gwen entered the room
“I don’t paint!” Ianto spluttered, looking horrified. Tosh laughed as an image of Ianto in a French beret standing up at an easel, complete with a pencil moustache, appeared in her mind. “It came through the Rift.”
Now, that caught Tosh’s attention. She immediately sat up straighter. A painting through the Rift? “The Rift?” she repeated, looking at Ianto who nodded in response.
“So you put it in my medical bay?” Owen asked, incredulously.
“I’m sorry,” Gwen interrupted, looking very confused. “What’s going on here?”
Ten minutes later, the five Torchwood employees had found themselves down in the medical bay, staring at the painting which adorned Owen’s wall. Tosh couldn’t help but laugh at the drawing, so obviously Jack and yet so unlike him at the same time. They all knew that Jack was immortal and had been on Earth for a long time, but the sight of him in Victorian clothing was enough to make her giggle.
“Well…” Gwen started but trailed off as she evidently couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Personally, I want this out of my medical bay. It’s creepy, for one, and downright disrespectful to the newly-deceased that I have to autopsy here,” Owen argued, reaching up a hand to touch the painting.
“Stop!” Jack ordered sharply, his glare all of a sudden heated and slightly angry. As soon as Owen’s hand halted its movement, the expression disappeared, returning to Jack’s normal carefree smile. “I’ll take it upstairs if you really don’t want me staring at you while you work.”
Owen made a rude gesture, and Tosh watched as Jack walked over to the painting, intent on picking it up. “Wait. If it came through the Rift, shouldn’t we scan it first to check it’s not dangerous?”
Jack turned to stare at her, and Tosh felt an inexplicable chill go down her spine. “I already did, last night.”
“You scanned it with your vortex manipulator, which we all know doesn’t always produce the most accurate results,” Ianto pointed out, and Tosh sent him a thankful smile for backing her up.
“It’s harmless,” Jack insisted, picking it up off the wall despite their conversation. “Look, it’s just a portrait of me that fell through time and space. Nothing to worry about.”
Tosh glanced back at Ianto, who shared her slightly worried glance, but before they could say anything else, Jack had left the medical bay, painting in hand.
“I have a report to finish,” Gwen said after a few seconds, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over them. As if on cue, Owen stood up and began to move.
“Yeah, you lot can get out of my bay. I’m already behind, thanks to Jack and his painting,” Owen grumbled, and Tosh decided it was best not to provoke him further.
7th October, 11:29 AM
Gwen hovered awkwardly outside the door to Jack’s office, worrying the corner of the stack of paperwork she was intending to get her boss to sign off. It was a slow morning, no Rift alerts to distract her, nor any new alien objects for her to play with. Regrettably, the large pile of paperwork on her desk had become her only source of entertainment, though the promise of an early evening home to surprise Rhys with made her smile and write twice as fast. Perhaps she could even make dinner, if no Rift spike interrupted her plans before five. Though, on the other hand, her making dinner might be more of a danger to the population of Cardiff than a rogue alien.
Her hand faltered just before she knocked at Jack’s door, hearing two voices coming from inside. The glass was frosted, as it had been all day, and she found herself lowering her fist in curiosity.
With a glance behind her to check that neither Owen or Tosh were watching her, Gwen stepped closer to the door and strained her ears to hear in. She was only momentarily startled by the portrait of Jack, which had somehow managed to find its way into the main area of the Hub. It hung, staring down at them, just to the side of the basketball hoop (in Gwen’s opinion, just waiting for a basketball to accidentally tear through the canvas).
“-just saying, you seem to have been on edge the past few days,” a voice, unmistakably Ianto’s, said, tearing Gwen from her thoughts.
“On edge?” Jack’s voice thundered out, as if trying to prove Ianto’s point.
Gwen paused for a moment and thought. She couldn’t deny that Jack had seemed on edge, if not a bit bitchy this morning and the previous day. He’d been quite irritable, seemingly finding problems with anything the team did. Hell, he’d gone off in a mood to his office this morning when he’d discovered the rest of the team were doing paperwork, instead of being - as Gwen had assumed he would be - grateful that they were finally tying up the loose ends around the admin work.
She hoped this didn’t mean they would have to stay in late, after all.
“Yes. You’ve been in a mood. What’s wrong?”
There was a pause, and Gwen tried to picture the two speakers in her head. Jack would be sat at his desk, his arms folded in a show of manly indifference to Ianto’s questions. Ianto would be… well, Gwen wasn’t sure where Ianto would be standing. Would he have sat in the chair in front of the desk? Or perhaps leant against the other side of the desk, closer to Jack?
“There’s nothing wrong, Ianto,” Jack said, sounding exasperated.
“Then why’ve you been finding fault in every little thing that’s gone wrong, recently? You wouldn’t sign my report yesterday because I typed the date wrong.”
“I know you would’ve gone back and reprinted it correctly anyway,” Jack replied.
“That is not my point.”
There was a pause. Gwen wondered if she should enter but was by now too curious at the real reason behind Jack’s bad mood.
“There’s nothing wrong, Ianto,” Jack said. In the silence that followed, Gwen could almost see the eyebrow that Ianto would be raising at that statement. “Look, don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I trust you,” Ianto replied, all too quickly. “But it would be nice to know that when I notice something is up, you trust me back and can tell me about it.”
Jack gave a laugh, short and cold. Gwen’s brows narrowed. “Ianto. Considering what’s happened in the past, me trusting you that much is a bit of a tall order.”
Struggling not to gasp out loud, Gwen put her hand to her mouth. It had been well over half a year since the only event Gwen could think of that Jack could be alluding to in his reply. She couldn’t quite believe that Jack would bring up the old wound, knowing it was something the entire team had by now forgiven Ianto for. Jack especially, she would’ve thought.
After a lengthy pause, Ianto’s voice returned, so quiet and timid that Gwen had to press her ear to the crack in the door to make out his words.
“I thought… I thought we were past that, sir?” he said, his voice trembling so much that Gwen wanted to burst into the room and hurry him into a hug. How dare Jack use Lisa as a weapon in this argument?
“You lied to me for months,” Jack continued, venom in his words.
Ianto took in a deep breath, loudly enough that Gwen could hear it. “You don’t really mean that. You’re just bringing it up because you’re in a bad mood and want to take it out on me. You don’t mean it.”
There was a harsh laugh, and before Jack could say anything else, Gwen had had enough. She burst forwards into the room, barely remembering to announce her arrival with a knock at the door.
Jack, as she had pictured, was sitting in his chair, arms folded as he lay back lazily, the chair almost tipping over as he leant backwards on it. Despite the argument she had overheard, he didn’t appear to look any different to the Jack that Gwen was used to, as if unaffected by what was going on. Ianto, on the other hand, was frozen, his face creased enough for Gwen to notice his worry and hurt. He was holding a few files in front of him, almost as if to protect himself, and was standing off to the side of the desk, further than an arm's reach away from Jack but not so far that it looked awkward.
“Gwen!” Jack called, grinning widely. Gwen tried her hardest to give him a neutral response, not wanting to give away what she had been listening in on their conversation, but still unwilling to pretend she hadn’t heard him rip into Ianto minutes prior.
Ianto turned to glance at her, his perfectly practiced mask already in place. “Excuse me.”
Brushing past Gwen, he was out of the door before either of the other two occupants could argue. Gwen had half a mind to follow him, but Jack was talking to her before she could decide one way or the other.
“Weevil hunting?” Jack asked, standing up to grab at his coat.
Gwen stared at him. “Don’t you usually take-” she began, but cut herself off at the look Jack sent her. His eyes were ever so slightly hardened, accentuated enough by the light crease in his brow to put her off her sentence.
She swallowed and nodded.
And then, in contrast, Jack was suddenly grinning at her like an overexcited puppy. “Great! Let’s go.”
As they left the building, Gwen tried not to think about Ianto, probably sat alone and brooding in the archives. Later, she vowed to herself, I’ll check if he’s alright later on.
9th October, 7:35 PM
It had been a difficult day for Toshiko.
It was one of those days where the walls would seemingly press closer together and harsh voices would jolt and intimidate her as if she were back in a small, barren cell, hopeless for the future with no means of escape. Perhaps it was the early Rift alert that had interrupted her dreams or the irritable mood Jack (and therefore the majority of the team) had been in for the past few days - or, perhaps, a combination of everything. Every small argument that had started out made her want to cower away in fear; every moment of peace and quiet made the walls come crashing in once more as the silence suffocated her mind.
Ianto – selfless, good-natured Ianto – had of course noticed this. Cups of jasmine tea had appeared out of nowhere on the side of her desk at regular intervals, and that afternoon Ianto had asked for her help on completing the last batch of paperwork for the items he’d recently catalogued in the archives. She was certain he would’ve preferred to get on with the work himself in the lower levels but was very grateful for the distraction.
When Gwen and Owen had said goodnight and the thought of returning to her empty home had entered Tosh’s mind, Ianto had appeared once more. This time, he was holding a metallic object, dulled with use around the edges. It had a long end, which Ianto held it by, and a flat surface at the other side, darker than the rest of it. Tosh was drawn immediately to it.
“Found this in the archives,” Ianto explained, his spare hand in his trouser pocket as he walked up to Tosh’s desk.
“Do you know what it is?”
“No idea.” He shrugged and placed it down on the desk.
Twenty minutes later, Tosh had figured out that it was for sure an alien device and had a beautiful set of wiring underneath the surface, once she had taken the outer layer off. It wasn’t anything similar to human wiring but consisted of pink thin metallic sheets, and a viscous liquid metal running through grooves in the design. She had taken a small sample of the liquid and put it into the device at the corner of her desk, which would tell her what particles it was composed of and how old the particles dated. If she was particularly clever (and, of course, she was ), she would put these results into her database and analyse any similarities or patterns between other substances they’d found before.
But it was getting late, and while Tosh was very happy to stay in the Hub as long as she physically could, it appeared that someone else wasn’t happy with that idea.
“Tosh?” Jack called, moving closer to her in a few steps.
Tosh straightened her back and turned around in her chair to face her boss. His voice hadn’t sounded particularly harsh, compared to the terrible mood he had been in this morning, but she still found herself intimidated by his raised eyebrow.
“Yes?” she responded, meeting his eyes.
Jack sent her a small smile, a grin that almost looked playful. “So, I was thinking. It’s probably about time you went home for the evening.”
As Tosh paused, unable to come up with a response, Jack slowly brought his left hand upwards and began to crack every knuckle in each of his fingers. The noises were loud, echoing off the walls and cracking harshly, as if Jack was breaking his own bones.
“You’re the only one left in the Hub, so…” he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders as if it wasn’t his fault that he was trying to chuck her out of the workplace.
But then, a thought entered Tosh’s brain, and she creased her eyebrows together in thought. “Isn’t Ianto still working in the tourist office?”
Jack’s grin immediately turned into a satisfied leer. “ Oh yeah.” He smirked, mouth staying slightly open as his tongue wet his lip quickly, almost unnoticeably. “Which is kinda why I’d like you to leave. Say… right now?”
Tosh froze and stared at him. She thought of her empty flat, cold and lifeless, and looked back at her desk, where the perfect distraction (that Ianto himself had brought her) rested. The Welshman, at least, would understand if she stayed later, right? In fact, it was downright odd that Jack was suggesting… well, that, if Ianto had practically invited her to stay longer in the Hub.
Trying not to sound too defiant, Tosh went to voice her thoughts. “Actually...Ianto gave me this to look at. I’m not too far off finishing the analysis, so-”
Something hideous flashed momentarily in Jack’s eyes, pupils darkening as his expression set like stone. His fists clenched at his side - and then the look was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared.
Tosh leaned backwards, spine rigid as she tried to put distance between them. Jack, however, didn’t seem to notice, and instead made his way over to her desk.
“Gravitation crystal detector,” he quickly spoke, grabbing the device and slamming the cover back over its circuitry in frustration. “Used by the Urbankans and Trakenites, far off in the future, to detect gravitational waves.”
Tosh’s mouth opened, but no words came out as Jack chucked the device back onto the desk. “God, Tosh, it’s primitive technology. You’ve been working on it for so long this evening and couldn’t get anywhere with it? You’re pretty much useless,” he spat, folding his arms tightly across his chest as he glared at her. “I don’t want to ask you again, so just go home. ”
Still shell-shocked by his outburst, Tosh stood for a few seconds, frozen in place. When Jack let out a menacing growl and untucked his arms from each other, her legs finally decided to move again, and Tosh was off.
She grabbed her bag and walked as quickly as she could, not looking back until she was out of his line of sight. Exiting the Hub, she came up to the tourist office, finally allowing herself to stop momentarily as she leant back on the door to catch her breath.
“Hello,” a voice called, interrupting her respite.
Tosh turned and saw Ianto standing, leaning back against the tourist office desk. His eyes were warm and open, if a little inquisitive as he took in her appearance.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his face changing to look concerned as Tosh raised an arm up to wipe at her slightly damp eyes.
“I’m fine,” she lied, looking away from her friend in the hopes that he wouldn’t see.
An arm landed on her shoulder, causing her to jolt in shock before she registered that it was making soothing circular motions, not gripping her in order to hurt her.
“What did he do?” Ianto asked, sounding resigned.
Tosh whipped her head to look at Ianto, wondering how he knew that it was Jack at fault here. Then again, she supposed, if anybody had any chance of knowing what was up with Jack, it was the man standing in front of her now.
“Nothing, really-” she said, putting her own hand on top of Ianto’s as she turned back to look at him again. “He just told me to leave.”
Ianto looked tired, the bags under his eyes more prominent in the lower light of the evening. “Did you finish up with the tech I gave you?”
“No...well, yes. Jack did for me.”
“Ah,” Ianto said and looked almost guilty for a moment. “Well, I was hoping he wouldn’t ruin your fun.”
“Ruin my fun?” Tosh echoed, then realised. “Oh. You already knew what it was.”
Ianto grinned sheepishly at her. “I… did, yeah. Jack had identified it before. But he’d marvelled over the circuit, explained to me exactly what each bit did, and I thought you might appreciate it. Today, especially.”
Tosh felt a little bit of the ball of nerves that had grown inside her stomach when Jack had appeared begin to ease away at Ianto’s kindness. She squeezed his hand and flashed him a grin.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
They stood in silence for a few moments, just breathing and trying to enjoy the calmness that was settling over them. Tosh almost thought she would be able to face going home, when-
Jack’s voice, harsh even when muffled from behind the door, permeated into the tourist office. Tosh remembered his bad mood, that she had inadvertently caused, and froze. She saw Ianto tense beside her too.
“Ianto!” Jack snapped again, this time sounding louder. He was approaching the door. “I’ve been waiting all day to absolutely ruin you. Get your ass in here, now!”
Tosh caught Ianto’s eye. She could see traces of both embarrassment and fear in him and suddenly found she didn’t want to go home at all.
“Ianto. You don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to,” she said softly, watching as he smoothed over his tie.
“Someone has to tame the beast,” he tried to joke, but she could tell his heart wasn’t in it.
“He doesn’t- he wouldn't ever hurt you, or anything, would he?” She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear the answer or not.
“ No, ” Ianto scoffed, shaking himself out of his momentary nerves. “I’m not too intimidated by him to stand up for myself, Tosh.”
Tosh blushed slightly. “I didn't mean- I wasn’t trying to imply you were weak, or-”
“Tosh,” Ianto spoke, fixing her a small smile. “It’s fine. Go home, put your favourite movie on, and come to work tomorrow morning like normal. Jack’s being a bitch at the moment and taking it out on all of us. But he’ll get over himself, and everything will go back to normal.”
Tosh returned his smile, and before she could second guess herself, she pulled him into a tight hug.
“Ianto!” Jack shouted for a third time, effectively pulling the two of them apart.
“I better go,” Ianto said, taking a deep breath. “Have a good night.”
“You too,” Tosh replied, and really, really hoped that he would.
10th October, 6:18 PM
Jobs for today
- Civilian #1 Autopsy
- Civilian #2 Autopsy
Torture Gwen over happy relationship
- Don’t torture Gwen over happy relationship, you’ll only make yourself fucking depressed
- Get Ianto to understand the last coffee brand is better than this new shit
- Finish autopsy reports
- Remember to lock up the autopsy bay at the end of the day so nobody messes it up tomorrow
- Remind Jack that I won’t be in tomorrow
- Buy enough alcohol to drown myself tonight
Owen looked down at his post-it note of jobs that he had to complete by the end of this current work day. He went down the list, striking through each task that he had managed to do, leaving only ‘Get Ianto to understand the last coffee brand is better than this new shit’ (which he circled in frustration) and the last two lines on the list.
Looking up at his boss’ office, Owen took a deep breath.
Owen knew, naturally, he was a bit of a bastard. It was his personality: the rude, grumpy team medic who took too much enjoyment out of picking on his team mates. And the team dealt with it - they argued back at him when he was in a mood and weren’t afraid to really fight when he took everything a step too far. Of course, none of the other workers could be considered angels, and he knew deep down that his coworkers weren’t naive enough to believe his heartless charade in its entirety.
But Owen was used to being the only real bastard in Torchwood Three. Now with Jack also in an almost week-long bad mood, the tension in the Hub was high. And nowhere was it higher than between Jack and Owen.
There’d been seven full-blown arguments, five shouting matches and three coffee mugs broken so far this week - and it was only Wednesday.
Owen looked at his watch, noting the time. He’d finished all of his work for the day and knew he was simply procrastinating the talk he needed to have with Jack. The 11th October had never officially been booked as his day off, but Jack had never called him out for it. Not after the first anniversary, when he’d found Owen passed out in his own home, far too hungover to come into work or do anything at all except mope. Jack had dragged him up, made him presentable, and ushered him into the passenger seat of the SUV. By the time they’d entered London, Owen had caught onto what was happening, and the flowers Jack had brought to leave on the grave had drawn sobs out of Owen that he didn’t realise he was holding in.
After that, it had become a tradition of Owen’s on this anniversary: get pissed, wake up with a blinding pain in his head, take a couple alien hangover pills, then finally drive down to London with a large bouquet of flowers.
But before he could head home to his date with a bottle of vodka, he had to face Jack one last time.
“Come in,” Jack called, after Owen had dragged himself up to knock on his boss’ door at last.
Owen entered the room, closing the door behind him on the off-chance that anybody else still in the Hub would hear his conversation. Only Jack knew about the significance of tomorrow, though Owen wouldn’t be surprised if Ianto was also aware - either through Jack, or from reading his file in the archives. The tosser seemed to know just about everything.
“Sit,” Jack ordered, but Owen stood his ground. He wasn’t going to stay long, and he wasn’t up for another argument. It was bad enough that he had to remind Jack of his vulnerability; he didn’t think he could take Jack insulting him over this. Somehow, he wasn’t sure he’d have a choice in the matter.
“Not gonna be long, I was just heading out,” he explained as he leaned back against the door.
“What do you want?”
Owen took a moment, closed his eyes briefly, and reminded himself of the bottle of alcohol he had waiting for him at home, once he’d had this conversation. “It’s the 11th tomorrow. Just wanted to check you’re all good to be a man down.”
Jack seemed to regard him for a moment. “What’s special about tomorrow?”
“I... What do you mean?” he stumbled. “You know what day it is.”
Jack raised both of his eyebrows and leant back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. “What’s special about tomorrow, Owen? Tell me.”
“No. You know what tomorrow is. I just need to check that it’s okay to be off tomorrow, not-” he tried to explain, feeling the beginnings of nerves and anger simmering under his skin.
“ Tell me, Owen.”
Jack fixed him an interrogative, harsh look, his hands coming down to hit the desk hard. Owen flinched at the noise.
“I don’t need to do this,” Owen decided, rage bubbling.
“How long has it been now, Owen? Four years?”
“Jack,” Owen growled, warningly. His hands itched all of a sudden, cheek twitching.
“Four whole years. And you still can’t even say it out loud. What right do you have to take the day off tomorrow? Is it because you can’t cope? You’re too weak?” Jack spat, and Owen saw red.
He stormed forwards to Jack’s desk, slamming his hands down on it as he knocked mugs and files onto the floor. “Four fucking years ago, my fiance died. The love of my life, dead. Right in front of me. I see it in my sleep, in my nightmares - and you want to know what right I have to mourn her?”
For a moment, Jack looked victorious, the juxtaposition of his animalistic rage against his triumphant grin being almost enough to confuse Owen quiet.
The key word there was ‘almost.’
“How many years have you been alive, Jack? I fucking pity you if you’ve never loved anyone strong enough to know how I feel,” Owen shouted, his head throbbing with pain and fury. He wasn’t sure if the stinging in his eyes was from his overwhelming emotions or from – God forbid – actual tears. “So yes - I’m taking fucking tomorrow off, because I miss Katie. But that doesn’t make me in any way weak. If you think love is a weakness, then I’m sorry for you. You’re an arrogant bastard, and I’m leaving.”
Owen snarled his final sentence, then turned around to open the door. Before he could leave, a glass shattered only a metre away from his right ear. He whipped around in shock.
Jack was standing, his arm still raised from throwing the glass at Owen.
“Go the fuck home, Owen. Or else, I won’t be held accountable for my next action.”
For one moment, Owen felt genuine, absolute terror fill his bones. Jack was seething – as angry as Owen had ever seen him before. Worse than any anger he’d seen on him so far this week – which was saying something, because Jack had been downright aggressive for the last few days. Briefly, Owen wondered if there may be something wrong with him – something beyond just a bad mood – but he didn’t have any energy left in him to entertain the idea for much longer.
He needed to get out of the Hub. Right now.
As he hurried out of Jack’s office, he could’ve sworn that the painting that hung on the wall was goading him, a malign grin amongst Jack’s grotesque expression.